Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Want Off!

I love rollercoasters. There’s just something about the thrill of speed, twists and turns, and the abrupt ending that excites me. I’ve been this way my whole life. I get carsick so easily, but put me on a rollercoaster, and I can ride it over and over with no ill effects. Strange, but true.

The grief “rollercoaster” is another story, however. It makes me sick. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sometimes, the twisting and turning of this type of “ride” literally has me on my knees in front of a toilet. I’m not trying to be graphic or disgusting…just real. Last night was one of those nights. My mind goes into overdrive with memories and lost dreams, and it has the power, at times, to make me physically sick. I hate it. I want off this rollercoaster!

I have no idea why I can do so well for a few days and then get saddled with deep, intense pain all over again. It’s just the non-linear aspect of grief. Sometimes I can see it coming…my motivation to do anything drops off, my appetite is virtually non-existent, I spend my days wanting to just sleep…simply put, depression increases. But there are the times I am blindsided by it too. That was last night. I was doing okay and…bam! I felt like I had just been run over.

I can’t stop the increasing painful heartache. It feels like my heart is being shattered all over again. Pictures from the night Joel went Home keep flashing in my brain. I start thinking…could I have done anything differently? What if… That’s when it overwhelms me to the point of physically getting sick.

There is nothing I can do to make the pain go away. I just have to ride it out. This is when my prayers turn into two-word mumblings again, “Help me!” Thankfully, I know the Holy Spirit is interceding for me (Romans 8:26). I know these days won’t last forever, but they feel so incredibly long when they come.

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the things happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ~C.S. Lewis

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trying to Avoid the Mother’s Day Blues

He had a way of making every holiday special. While decorating for the major holidays as always been “my thing”, Joel made sure I felt loved and treasured on even the minor holidays.

Mother’s Day.

It hurts to type those two words. It brings with it pain on many levels…some of those reasons I choose not to even speak of here, as it doesn’t edify anyone. However, since 2011, Mother’s Day has been an even harder holiday for me to muster. I buried Chris on Mother’s Day. I can only imagine the pain his own mother feels on this day each year.

This year…the loss of Joel and his precious ways of making me feel like a princess will be most notably missed. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t need to feel like a princess. I don’t need to be doted over. I don’t need a holiday dedicated to the fact I’m a mother. But…Joel sure knew how to make me feel like royalty, and he had begun teaching the children to do the same thing. It was truly an everyday teaching in our home. He taught them to love and respect me, and while he didn’t have long with our littlest ones, I know the groundwork had begun. Mother’s Day, however, was just the day set aside to allow me to rest and feel loved on even more.

I can tell my children Sunday is Mother’s Day. And…we’ll call Grandma to be sure. But…that’s where it ends. I don’t know if they’ll get it. I don’t know if they’ll be nice or give me a hard time all day long. I don’t know if rest will be in the equation, or if I’ll be exhausted from having to referee arguments. To them…it’s just another day without their daddy here to emphasize it. I don’t blame them. I don’t blame God. It is what it is.

If there are single moms, especially with young children, that cross your path this weekend…remember this might be a difficult holiday for them. Show them some extended grace, an extra smile, and offer up a prayer on their behalf. Any of those acts might make all the difference between a difficult Mother’s Day and a great Mother’s Day.

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Never Ending Ache

You know the headache that doesn’t seem to go away no matter what you try…medicine, nap, essential oils. neck massage?

Or…how about the arthritis in your knee you feel with every step you take?

Perhaps for you…it’s constant reflux that aggravates your core and can only be controlled with medicine.

For me, it’s the ache of the heart. I live with it all day long, gnawing at the core of my being. Sometimes, the pain of it might soften just a bit, and other times, it throbs so deeply I don’t know how I’m still living. There isn’t a pill I can take to put an end to the ache. Naps might help temporarily, but I’ll eventually wake up, and it will still be there. Massages are great, but the effects from them are also short-lived. Essential oils do the same thing. They DO help, but they aren’t THE cure. So…what will alleviate the pain?

In short, I’ve discovered only two things that have been able to heal broken hearts. Remember…I’ve been down this road once before…the Widow Road, that is. Obviously the second time around brings an entirely new dimension of grief and (as I’ve learned), the former grief episode now attaches itself to the new grief episode and compounds the effects. But…all-in-all…time is a healer. How much time? That is a question I can’t answer. It’s individualistic and completely circumstantial.

After becoming a widow in 2011, I felt my shattered heart mended rather quickly. It didn’t feel that way at first, but when healing arrived on my doorstep, it was there to completely repair the broken mess left behind by the traumas of losing my spouse to suicide.

This time, however, it feels as if my broken heart is content to remain in its state of brokenness. I don’t like that feeling. I’m ready to see strides in the direction of healing…I know it takes time, but I want to see something…anything…to make me feel I’m heading in that direction. If the signs are there, they are very dim and haven’t made it to my line of sight just yet. And so…I wait, and I pray.

And…that takes me to only the second thing I’ve found that has ever healed a broken heart completely. Yes…time is a factor, a VERY important piece of the healing puzzle. For me, however, even more importantly has been my faith!

I don’t use the faith word lightly. As a follower of Jesus Christ, He *is* the Rock I cling to on my good days, my so-so days, and the worst days of my life. He has *never* failed me. Ever! Some may challenge that statement when looking at my life and all the tragic events I’ve experienced in my forty-five years. Jesus didn’t cause that. Sin and this broken world in which I still live caused that. Yes…God allowed it, because He will use it all for His glory, and His plan of redeeming the pain is much, much bigger than I can see right now. That’s where faith steps in.

I know Jesus. Oh…do I know Jesus. And…as I told a friend a couple days ago, going through this grief journey is all but impossible for me, however without my faith…I doubt I’d even still be here. Christ is upholding me on my darkest days. He catches every tear, He meets me where I’m at, and He sustains me when my strength is gone.

He will ultimately be the repairer of my broken heart. Until that day comes, I keep looking to Him to not only get me through this nightmare but to help me come out on the other side a much better woman, mom, and Christian than I am right now. To Him be ALL the glory!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It’s Tough on the Body

A couple nights ago, my little Austyn asked me to lay with him while he went to sleep (in my bed, mind you) and single a few songs. I usually ask if he wants singing, humming, or just to be quiet. On this particular night, he wanted one song and then quiet. I held him in my arms as we went through this little routine. I told Damaris (our precious gift of a nanny) to just let herself out if I wasn’t back in the living room before she was ready to go.

The next thing I knew…it was 4:00 am. I was fully clothed, had jewelry on, my hair still up in a ponytail (sort of), and the lights were still on in the living room. Just as I thought about getting up to turn everything off, put on my PJs and climb back into bed, I was already asleep again. I must have been exhausted and needed the sleep.

I’m sure some of you might be wondering how in the world I could be so tired when most of my days are filled with sitting in a recliner with my foot elevated on some pillows. It sounds like a cushy job to me too. But, that’s not what’s exhausting me. Pure and simple…it’s GRIEF!

GRIEF is like fighting a terminal illness, in which I have yet to reach a point of remission. There will be those points of reprieve along the journey, but the grief illness will never go away, in and of itself. Some days will feel easier than others. Down the road, some days might even feel a bit normal, but each will still have the potential to be one of great battle.

Right now, I’m in the throws of deep war. Since, Joel’s death on February 12, I have experienced three foot surgeries (two unexpected and emergent), and I survived an almost head-on collision (that I accidentally caused). There have been other smaller defeats and setbacks along the way, but those named have been the biggest in the battlefield.

Additionally, I’m trying to parent these four small, newly adopted children of ours without neglecting our biological older children and grandchildren, and I feel I’m failing at both. I am deeply fragmented and a pitiful representation of a mother / Grandma right now. But, I feel God has given them a measure of grace to extend to me right now, and they are doing so with both a beauty and a patience not typical of children to exhibit.

This past weekend, some of my dearest friends were in town visiting, and I kept struggling to keep my eyes open. I had a full night sleep the night before, but I honestly felt exhausted…again! As the day went on, exhaustion turned into an outright cruddy feeling…almost like I was coming down with something, but I simply couldn’t pinpoint it. The end result…I lost the battle and ended up going to bed early again. I feel robbed, of sorts, when this happens, as I want to spend time with these precious people. However, I just can’t fight the battle that wages within. I know they understand, but I still struggle with the overwhelming desire to spend precious time together rather than sleeping it away. This too shall pass (I hope…).

#HeIsStillGood

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sucker Punched

I woke up alone in my bed and in my house for the first time since February 12. It was a rather eerie feeling, if I’m being completely honest…I didn’t like it at all. While I sometimes complain about my wiggly little 3-year-old bed buddy, he brings me a new level of comfort…at least for now. While I longed for some time away from my children so I could get some very important things done, distraction-free, I actually missed them…especially the sounds of their laughter, arguments, “mommy, mommy, mommy” calling, and the constant question, “May I have a snack?” I think our time apart, albeit difficult, was good for us both in many ways.

For me, I’ve been struggling to truly grieve. I’ve had a few moments, but nothing like I fear is around the corner. I don’t recall suppressing grief like I’ve done so often this time around, but I think I’m just trying to protect our children and not frighten them.

Sometime Tuesday, late in the morning, after the home health nurse had already been here for the day, I was in my home office working on our our taxes (yes – at the last possible minute), something literally gnawed at my chest. I thought I might have been having a heart attack, or a panic attack (at minimum). I couldn’t catch my breath. I literally felt I had been sucker punched and held up against the wall and couldn’t move, and then I sensed that inner voice saying quite clearly…

Let it go, Leah. Let it all go.

I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to get me to cry. I could sense the tears welling up in my eyes. I could feel a painful, burning sensation all over my body, as I tried to keep it at bay, at least for now. But, the voice wouldn’t stop.

Let it go, my child. I will catch every tear. I want you to be real with Me!

I no longer could hold back. My shoulders started heaving, the tears starting flowing at a very fast rate, I started violently shaking, and then I began to loudly moan. That was soon followed by words…questions…affirmations…doubts coupled with things I knew to be sure. I was literally screaming as I walked from room to room in this house. Things like,

“I’m almost to the 10-week mark, Lord, and I feel I’m getting nowhere.”

…heaving sobs

“I’m just so, so sad. I feel like nothing can pull me out of this deep, dark depression. You could drop a million dollars onto my lap, and I’d be happy for you to take it back, because it’s meaningless to me right now. It won’t bring my Joel back.

…dropping to the floor, banging my fist over and over onto the hardwoods

“You’ve got to help me God! I don’t know what to do next. Each step hurts.”

…laying down briefly and rolling from my back to my side over and over

“This pain is more than I can bear. You’ve asked me to endure so much, Lord. So, so much! When is it going to stop? Is this my lot in life? Just one trial after another? Please, Lord…when will you allow me to catch my breath?”

The questions stopped, and I crawled back into my recliner and sobbed, loud moaning sobs. I don’t know when they ended. But, when they did, I was spent. I crawled into bed and went sound to sleep.

I think God brought me right to the place where He wanted me. To a place of anger, hurt, and the ability to simply grieve…REAL, long-overdue grief. It’s not over. The pain is still fast upon me. I ache. I hurt all over. At times, I’m very productive. At others, I do nothing but sit. But…He knows…

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)